Intense. That’s the first word that comes to mind if you were to summarize spring practices thus far. The Gophers are quickly becoming aware of how Jerry Kill will run this football team. The tempo is fast, the drills are run hard, and it’s all done the right way.
Coach Kill expects nothing less than an all-out sprint from his players during and inbetween drills. In fact, to keep players from standing around, Kill runs two offenses with one huddling while the other runs a play. Kill’s fast-paced practices are designed so that players receive numerous repetitions. This will offer the players more opporunities to make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, and correct those mistakes. These added repititions can only help a team learning a new system. The intensity of these practices also provides the coaching staff an idea of which players are mentally tough and which can adjust the quickest to game situations.
Here is a behind-the-scenes video of the Gopher’s first practice. Courtesy of University of MN and YouTube.
- Marqueis Gray, considered to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job, has been the only QB to take snaps with the first-team. The junior quarterback has had some issues passing the ball thus far, overthrowing his receivers and throwing two interceptions Friday. However, he settled down and made some athletic throws later in the practice. The coaching staff seems very optimistic about Gray’s mobility. Growing pains are expected for Gray, who hasn’t played QB full-time in three years. Gray’s main competition for starting quarterback includes 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore Moses Alipate, who has a cannon for an arm, and redshirt freshmen Tom Parish and J.D. Pride.
- UPDATE: Phil Miller of the Star Tribune reports that Marqueis Gray had his best day of spring practice Saturday, passing much more accurately than previous practices. Miller also states the mobile quarterback, or “Q” as Kill now calls him, also did a nice job throwing on the run. Gray will become the face of the Gophers if Kill and his staff are able to shape the gifted athlete into a productive quarterback.
- After catching a team-high 10 touchdowns in 2010, senior wide receiver Da’Jon McKnight has stood out through the first 2 practices. McKnight, who has NFL size (6-3, 214lbs.) and talent, has made a number of one-handed catches already in spring ball. He led the Gophers in receiving last year with 48 catches for 750 yards, a 15.6 yard average. If McKnight and Gray can develop a rhythm, look for McKnight to challenge the school record of 11 touchdowns in a season, held by Ron Johnson and Omar Douglas.
- After missing the entire 2010 season with a broken leg, Kim Royston, Gophers captain and senior free safety, was on the field Thursday but sat out Friday as a precaution. Royston planned to practice Saturday. Royston broke his left leg during spring practices last year. After undergoing multiple surgeries, there were complications with a titanium rod inserted in Royston’s leg that to a longer than expected recovery. Thankfully, the senior who has NFL apirations, was given an extra (6th) year of eligibility from the NCAA due to the injury. It’s great to see Royston return to the field after such a serious injury, which was considered career-threatening. His hard work in rehab has paid off. Gophers fans are hoping his leadership and superior tackling ability will revive a defense ranked 75th in the nation in 2010.